Like two birds of a feather, orderliness and self-discipline flock closely together. Yes, it’s true, orderly habits (like washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, and cleaning your car) influence willpower. One study reported that people sitting in a messy lab scored lower in self-control on many measures. When offered snacks and drinks, people in the neat lab chose healthier diet options compared to the candy and sugary colas their peers in the pigsty chose. The ancient Zen notions of order and harmony appear to be playing out in modern-day laboratories.
I’ve suspected this link for a while because being in disorderly surroundings makes me nervous and ill at ease, and eating is a very effective—although side-effect laden—de-stressor.
Take a look around you. If you’re at a desk, are pens neatly stowed, and papers neatly stacked? Is the smooth surface of your desk visible to the naked eye, or would it take a shovel to dig through the stacks of unread books, unpaid bills, and unwashed coffee mugs?
Disorder Leads to Disharmony Leads to. . .
Discomfort. Even if you aren’t consciously aware of the discomfort caused by messy surroundings, disorder is covertly at work, chipping away at your peace of mind and your willpower. Certainly, surrounding yourself with clutter isn’t the only cause of unhealthy eating, but it can play a role. In my ten years of helping people permanently adopt a nutrient-dense diet, I’ve noticed that the clients with the most ordered lives are the most successful in in their weight loss.
On the other hand, those who have an indifferent attitude when it comes to neatness tend to remain loose and carefree about their diet, too—they believe that someday, their food choices will magically morph from highly-refined and animal-based to unrefined and plant-strong without any effort on their part. Unfortunately, a visit to your local cardiac intensive care unit will introduce you to numerous people who once thought the same.
There are two ways upholding tidiness in your vicinity can motivate you to eat a healthy diet. One has already been mentioned—that order creates a space for harmony, which translates to less stress for you. Secondly, when you yourself are the purveyor of that order (as opposed to hiring a cleaning service) you build self-discipline, especially if you maintain a regular cleaning schedule.
I advocate applying multiple strategies to this challenge of sticking to a nutrient-dense diet in our plant-poor culture. But in this post, the focus is on one tactic in particular—that of maintaining order in the non-food areas of your life. So this is your assignment: pick an area of your house (or your life if you already keep an organized, clean house) that could use some regular TLC, spruce it up, and keep it that way. Over time, the willpower you build and the inner harmony you inspire will pay off as more veggies are consumed!